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    1878-S Seated Liberty Half, Fine 15
    Only 12,000 Pieces Struck, Fewer Than 50 Extant
    Rare Series Key

    1878-S 50C Fine 15 PCGS. Only 12,000 Seated Liberty dollars were struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1878, down from a mintage of over 5 million pieces the year before. The reason for this drastic decline was the introduction of the Morgan dollar, mandated by the Bland-Allison Act which required the government to purchase huge amounts of silver for coinage into silver dollars. Nearly 10 million Morgan dollars were struck at San Francisco in 1878, and similar production totals were reported at the other mints over much of the next 15 years.

    The 1878-S has been known as a key date in the Seated Liberty half dollar series since Augustus Heaton published his treatise on mint marks in 1893. Heaton called the 1878-S "the great rarity of the San Francisco Half Dollar coinage." Before Heaton published his masterpiece, few collectors considered branch mint coins to be important separate issues. Most numismatists collected date runs of their favorite series, saving a single coin of each date without regard for which mint it represented. Well-financed collectors preferred to order proof sets each year from the Philadelphia Mint to keep their collections current. As a result, few examples of the 1878-S were saved by contemporary collectors. The 1878-S is rare in all grades today, and most examples seen are in low-to-mid circulated grades. Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert rate the 1878-S as High R.6 in F/VF. PCGS and NGC have combined to certify 40 coins in all grades, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (8/13).

    The 1878-S began appearing at auction soon after Heaton's work was distributed. An early appearance was the New Jersey Collection (Edouard Frossard, 3/1898), lot 568:

    "1878 San Francisco mint. Proof surface, field very slightly chafed; sharp, uncirculated, very rare."

    The coin was purchased by John M. Clapp and later passed to Louis Eliasberg. Recent auction records for the 1878-S include the spectacular MS64 PCGS coin in lot 2476 of the Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2009) which realized $184,000.

    Except for the unique 1866 No Arrows, the seldom encountered 1847/6, and the ultra-rare 1853-O No Arrows issues, the 1878-S is the rarest Seated Liberty half dollar. The present coin is a Choice Fine specimen, with smooth dove-gray and cerulean-blue surfaces that show only minor abrasions. A few traces of prooflike reflectivity are visible in protected areas. The design elements are worn, but they retain a significant amount of interior detail, including the letters L and RTY in LIBERTY. A few obverse planchet flaws on the shield and Liberty's torso, as struck, can serve as pedigree markers. The diagnostic die chip is visible at the top of the first recessed area in the reverse shield. We expect spirited competition from series specialists when this lot is called. Population: 2 in 15, 18 finer (8/13).
    From The Strawberry Fields Collection.(Registry values: N4719)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 24KR, PCGS# 6360)

    Weight: 12.50 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2013
    25th-29th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,935

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato

    The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.

    This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.

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